Wed, 21 Aug, 2019

Sensitizing for safety

Samabhav Film Festival, a traveling film festival dedicated to addressing issues of gender, violence against women is set to make its presence felt in Goa

05th January 2019, 03:12 Hrs


Out of all problems faced by the Indian society, those relating to gender, violence against women, and the rights of the LGBTQ community remain some of the most sensitive ones. Along with mediums such as talks and campaigns on social media platforms, a good way to raise awareness about these issues is through films. Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), a Mumbai-based NGO has been employing this method to educate the masses about the said issues, and one of its core goals is to challenge a particular notion of masculinity.

As a part of its work, MAVA has curated a film festival dedicated to discussing these issues. Titled, ‘Samabhav Film Festival,’ i.e. the festival to promote equality, the event is set to come to Goa on January 8 and 9. It will held at Don Bosco College Panaji. 

 “Our focus is to bring about a change in the attitude in the views of boys and men with regard to violence against women, and certain notions of masculinity.” explains

Harish Sadani, Chief Functionary of MAVA, and Promoter and Director of the travelling film festival, while elaborating how the event originated. “Earlier, I did an experiment in various colleges around Mumbai. We showed the students a number of films for a couple of days, and later had in-depth discussion about these films. We found that films generate a lot of interest. People, especially the youth, can connect to them.” Following this experience, Samabhav Film Festival was created in 2017. In its first edition, the Festival travelled around eight cities in India.

“We received a very enthusiastic response in cities such as Mumbai, Hyderabad etc. Along with students, NGOs, civil society bodies have watched the Festival with keen interest, and the public too is receiving it well.” says Sadani.The Festival includes films on topics such as gender-based discrimination, violence against women, how traditions, religions put restrictions of women’s mobility, and there are films about masculinity, which is MAVA’s main area of work.  “We need to challenge the dominant model of masculinity, and build an alternate model.” says MAVA functionary. 

When one talks about masculinity, a line of theory in biology suggests that women prefer aggressive men because they produce stronger children. However, Sadani states that this might not be entirely true. “I think it’s a misconception. If you say it is scientific, it has to include people around the world from all walks of life and different societies.” He further notes that a number of Bollywood films and songs have perpetuated a wrong notion of masculinity. “In our society, girls are generally brought-up not to take initiative or speak their mind when it comes to topics like entering a relationship. When faced with such questions, they will generally shy away as these are taboo topics. Our films show that the hero stalks the heroin to the point where she succumbs to the pressure, and eventually agrees. So, in real life, when the girl shies away or does not respond to the proposal to enter into relationship, the boy might think she just needs more persuasion, and will agree some day.” says Sadani. “Further on, there are instances of victim-blaming. As in, if a girl assaulted by an individual or a group, the first question that is asked is ‘what was she doing there,’ or ‘what was she wearing’. The questions are never ‘what was the man doing at that time there.’ “ Thus, we need to have a paradigm shift to change the attitude of men. We need to change the way men look at women-as an object or a secondary being.” 

Lastly, when one talks about films related to gender issues,  the audience might come to watch the films with a kind of dark curiosity. Is that acceptable? “The goal of the event is to sensitize the audience.” clarifies Sadani. “Even if they come with dark curiosity, we have to generate constructive and educative discussion, so that they will leave with a new and better perspective.” concludes the festival Director.

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